Rushed changes to North End Treatment plant could be catastrophic: mayor
WINNIPEG -- Mayor Brian Bowman said if the Pallister Government forces the city to rush changes to the North End sewage treatment plant, the results could be catastrophic and lead to delays.
On Thursday the province sent a letter to the city, denying a request for an extension of two years to bring the plant into compliance with its environmental license.
“As of January 1, 2020, the City will be out of compliance with their licence and consequently with their approved phosphorus compliance plan pursuant to The Water Protection Act," stated the letter.
"Manitobans expect action on Lake Winnipeg," said Manitoba Municipal Relations Minister Rochelle Squires on Thursday.
As a result, the province said it’s ordering the city to be part of an advisory group that will help implement an interim phosphorus reduction strategy on February 1.
"We will depend on expert advice, we will be cautious," said Manitoba Conservation Minister Sarah Guillemard on Thursday. "But I think Manitobans expect us to move foreward."
Bowman said that plan needs to be tested first to make sure it’s safe.
“A catastrophic failure means months of raw sewage flowing into the rivers and we know that that’s a risk that’s been identified by a third-party engineer,” said Bowman.
The city currently has a Request for Proposal set to close this month on that study.
Overcapacity concerns, Bowman said if the interim measures move forward without testing, the city may have to reconsider sewage treatment service deals it has with Rosser and West St. Paul, as well as a new pea protein plant and a Maple Leaf expansion.
The entire upgrades for the sewage plant, which includes nutrient removal and other work, are estimated to cost $1.8 billion.
The province also said Thursday the advisory group will also put together “realistic” construction timelines for all the necessary upgrades.
The city has broken the project into three parts and is moving ahead with the first phase.
Bowman said the city can’t produce a construction schedule without money for the project from the provincial and federal governments.
The mayor cautioned what it would mean if the city had to move forward alone.
“The implications on water rates would be significant, I can’t underscore that enough,” said Bowman.
Guillemard said the funding will be discussed.
“There will be a dollar amount at some point,” said Guillemard. “That will be a discussion between all three levels of government, which portions belong to whom.”